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Philly Tech MeetupVenturef0rth and us, are organizing a series of events designed to match designers and startups, creating opportunities for internships and jobs. We are very excited to bring you this opportunity.

This first event will give designers/creatives more insight into how they can fit into the local startup ecosystem, particularly for those with an eye towards internships and employment as summer approaches. We want to help new designers understand the value they can bring to startups and what they should expect in return.

[6:00] Networking + Drinks
[6:30] Intro to Startups

  • What is a startup?
  • Why work at a startup?
  • What do startups need from the creative sector?
  • Co-founding a startup
    • Finding a team
    • Ownership structure
  • Joining a startup
    • Vetting the company
    • Understanding compensation

[7:00] Designers’ Lessons Learned

[7:45] Q&A

If you’re a designer and want to attend, RSVP here:


This is the title of a Fast Company article that is secretly advocating for design at the beginning phases of projects, rather than the end. Experience and interaction design already focus their considerations on how people interact with a product, organization or process and how that can be optimized and streamlined. Service designers are looking, specifically, at how to create new services that fulfill a potential client base’s latent needs. Including these people and their processes early on, only makes sense, because it enables the business to be built around customer.

Designers live and breathe qualitative data. On the obvious level, aesthetics are not defined by math. Yes math has a role, most good visual materials is based on a grid, but more important context, precedent and expectations also play a role. Will this be on a magazine or a billboard, is this for a restaurant or a tech start-up, what work has come before? These questions are more important when considering how to make unique, engaging graphics. In the broader context of Design, designers study people, their environments, their perspectives, their culture as well as their responses to make an informed decisions. It is this qualitative data that, that paints a richer more textured picture about a potential client base to enable more tailored and appropriate offering to be developed. So listen to Fast Co. and don’t feel bound to quantitative data.


Happy Hour at Smokin’ Betty’s

We had an awesome time at Smokin’ Betty’s this past weekend. We held an impromptu happy hour to prep for Temples Design Challenge they are having right now!

There were a lot of new faces and perspectives there. It was great talking with everyone and hearing about their programs and thoughts about business and urban development, as well as what their expectations for the upcoming Design Challenge were. I am curious to see what the outcomes of the challenge are, maybe tonight at Ignite Philly even.

Higher Education Bubble

Not really design-y or business-y but certainly still germane. This article from Fast Company, or Co. Design as this is from their spin-off, is about the potential of a bubble in the economy of student loans.

They claim that apparently because student loan debt isn’t erased in bankruptcy court the debt effectively just follows the student around their entire life, graduate or not. Connecting that fact with the high-unemployment, and thus higher rate of college applicants etc. etc. that this is and will have significant impacts on the American/Global economy.

It’s certainly an interesting take, they don’t really propose any better solution other than developing some means to show how much one can do and learn outside of college if they really want to make something for themselves. Building on the argument that college is doing nothing more than buying that ticket to a higher paying job, and the lack of skills it is providing are actually quite detrimental in terms of debt, but also in getting a job (which of course ties back to debt).

To me this highlights yet another fault in the premises the economy is built on. That pure bottom line mentality is eating us from the inside out. Politicians and corporations want to know how it will make them money and get them deals. In turn they exploit any option they can, and now they’ve really whittled down their options. They are literally preying on the futures of individuals, hopefully, striving to make a difference in the world, individuals that believe a higher education will help them do that more acutely, quickly and significantly. Now though, this is disappearing before our very eyes. How will the economy, and America, run when we have a bunch of “higher educated” individuals discussing the classics in shanty’s under bridges because they can’t get a loan to start a business or even a credit approval to rent an apartment…

Yeah, I took this pretty far, but my point is still the same, the definition of progress will have to change to continue making progress.

P.S. I didn’t look at the infographic/video

It’s Been Emotional

Holy smokes, I’m back bitches! My first BDQ post in forever, although admittedly in part due to the $30 bucks Georgia bullied me into putting up as a monetary incentive.

For my reunion tour I wanted to briefly mention my experience at StartupCorps‘ mid-semester business plan competition that they hosted for their students. First, it was great to see a real show of force from the Temple MBA’s. I’m hard pressed to think of a mutually beneficial relationship with more potential and can’t wait to see how things develop. The event, for those that weren’t there, was made up of 50 or so high school students (mostly from the Student Leadership Academy) pitching their business ideas to a panel of judges. The finalists from each of the separate judging panels then went on to present in front of everyone in a final round.

Having done a couple pitches and listened to more, I was quite impressed with the skills exhibited. True, there wasn’t much in the way of financials or competitive strategy, but it did not matter. Listening to these pitches, you couldn’t help but edge forward. The listeners visibly wanted to be a part of what these students so clearly believed in. It was, in a word, contagious. Can a business pitch be anything better?

Of the 8 or so pitches that I heard, there was a diversity of ideas, but they all shared a common thread: emotion. Clothing lines were battle cries of identity, acceptance, and individuality. After school communities were bastions of understanding and support. Given the emotional turmoil of everyone’s teenage years, its no surprise the emotional growth and expression played such central roles in these business ideas. Nonetheless, it was still amazing to see such clear examples of how entrepreneurship can serve as a mechanism for engaging the world around us.

Listening in on these pitches reminds me that emotions are powerful forces to tap into. The next time that I think about my game-plan, you can be sure that I will consider whether I need to build something to spark the change I’m interested in. Perhaps all I need is an emotion and a message.

Open Design and Self-Replicating Robots

Open design is a small idea in the huge field of design. It is an idea that is spreading though, and an idea I think should spread. The book Open Design Now is dedicated to it and has a number of articles, essays and stories about what it means to be open and how the idea is being implemented.

You’re probably wondering what does it mean to be open? Well it is akin to open-source coding, where the product and the machinations are free for anyone to tweak and modify. This doesn’t mean there is no money involved, as the book on openness can attest, what it means is that the products are not bound by proprietariness. That products, and potentially the resources that went into making that products, are accessible and able to be modified to fit the needs of the consumer.

As an example here is a fun essay about how the Makerbot business got started. You can always do a google search and see more about it too.

Design the new Business

Trailer – Design The New Business from dthenewb on Vimeo.

Had a chance last week to attend the US premier of a documentary about design thinking, Design the new Business. The film was produced and filmed by students in the Master of Design program at Delft University, The Netherlands, and features many interviews with designers working in the Netherlands or Germany. The film is basically a snapshot of thoughts and comments working professionals have about design being used by business for strategy and new product development. My favorite quote to sum up the movie came in the beginning, which was that today’s world and work is defined by complexity. Everyone understands this, and businesses need to manage that complexity and respond to it to thrive. Designers can provide clarity in the fuzziness that surrounds this complexity, and that’s why they are useful, if not vital to business. Alexander Osterwalder, one of the authors of Business Model Generation was one of the best experts they interviewed.

Unfortunately, I thought the presentation at our particular event was pretty lackluster; the presenter was one of the students who participated in the project, but he couldn’t name an interview that was a favorite, and didn’t even seem to want to talk about the motivations behind making the film. My conclusion: even designers can give boring presentations sometimes. The movie is being screened at special events for the next month, then they will probably make it available for watching in it’s entirety (it’s about 40 min long) so check back on the website for when it’s available.

Here’s a fun article that outlines some interesting points about making stuff happen. In 20 min the creator of the makerbot and a collaborator hammered out what they call the Done Manifesto. Though a bit grandiose sounding for 20min worth of work, it really reflects their perspectives on how to work.

There’s also an illustration that accompanies it. It doesn’t constitute and info-graphic in my mind because it doesn’t really convey information, it is a lovely supplemental image to the text beneath it though, the actual manifesto.

  1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
  2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
  3. There is no editing stage.
  4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
  5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
  6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
  7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
  8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
  9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
  10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
  11. Destruction is a variant of done.
  12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
  13. Done is the engine of more.

Building Your Philly Network

This website/group/following is at an interesting intersection. We’ve talked a lot so far about how business and design can work together to produce amazing results, referencing just a small bit of the tons and tons of what’s been written about it. We are in a specific location though, talking about these specific things, and sometimes what can be really helpful in that situation is just a list of similar groups, organizations, or events. Below is my list of relevant design, business and tech groups and lists to follow, which I think we will consider putting into a collective calendar or blogroll.

AIGA Philly – Philly chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, they have a lot of design events happening.

Corzo Center at University of the Arts – Offers free lectures and events on entrepreneurship aimed at artists (also my current employer).

Empowerment Group – A nonprofit aiming to spur the economy with entrepreneurship. I found their reading list helpful.

Philly CHI – An Academic/Professional group interested in Human-Computer Interaction, User Experience, Usability. A lot of their events fall into the realm of design.

Philly Net Squared – Awesome events the first Tuesday of every month on the social web and how to use it.

Philly New Media Hub – A very helpful collection of technical news and events in and around Philly.

PhillyWorks – A collective of designers, crafters, fabricators, and other people who make and do stuff in Philly.

The Hacktory – My favorite, an organization aiming to empower people to use technology creatively (I’m currently the director).




Urban Apps & Maps Project

Okay here’s the skinny, the past month or so I’ve been hearing about this grant 700K awarded to Temple MIS Professor, Youngjin Yoo, “to support a tech startup studio and an urban wireless network.”

For some more background, this piece was written for TechnicallyPhilly in September.

Part of the grant is going toward a project that involves training high school students in design thinking with the goal of having these trained teams enter a the annual design competition in Feburary 2012. For obvious reasons this peaked my interest and I wanted to present it to the BDQ to get your thoughts.

Here’s a short project description that was put together by one of my classmates.

Temple was awarded a grant to create the Urban Apps & Maps platform, a hub for urban digital entrepreneurship. One of the project’s long-term goals is to reach out to local high school students and train them to use Design Inquiry as they explore opportunities to build new apps and eventually start their business. A short-term goal is to have a cohort of high school students trained to participate in the Temple DESIGNweek challenge in mid-February. In order to accomplish this goal, Temple’s Center for Design + Innovation (CD+I) has asked us to partner with them by acting as the primary trainers in this program. CD+I is also working with The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an international organization focused on teaching entrepreneurship skills to low-income students, to achieve this goal. 
The tentative structure of the program will be as follows. We will recruit interested and committed Fox graduate students – and hopefuly some partners from the MID program at University of the Arts – to become the Design Inquiry trainers. CD+I will provide us with the curriculum and train our graduate students in the methodology. NFTE will recruit and transport the high school students to and from the training. The workshops will be held in Alter Hall, scheduled at our convenience, and CD+I & NFTE will cover the expenses of the training.

What do you peeps think? If we’re ready to get in on this, I’ve already given the heads up to those involved, but getting some feedback would be informative.